2020 Science Reporting – Small Outlet - Silver

Coastal storms and rising sea levels are chipping away at the land mass of mainland Rhode Island and nearby Block Island, which is a part of Rhode Island, according to Alex Kuffner’s richly reported look at “the smallest state and why it’s getting smaller.” From his opening description of the perilous state of Block Island’s landfill ― located on a scenic bluff overlooking the sea ― to his catalogue of receding beaches along the coast of mainland Rhode Island, Kuffner explains not only what has been happening but why coastal erosion poses a serious long-term threat. As Kuffner writes, “Normal wave action has an effect, but coastal storms are the real drivers of change. Scientists expect them to become more frequent and more powerful as the planet continues to warm. Sea-level rise is only adding to their impact, pushing storm surges higher, extending their reach inland, and amplifying their ability to tear away at the shore. With higher seas, even weaker storms could do heavy damage.” While coastal erosion “is not the sexiest of topics, Alex Kuffner brings this alive for his audience with strong reporting and great storytelling,” said Sarah Zielinski, managing editor at Science News for Students. Kuffner commented: “It means so much to win recognition for this work about the threat posed by rising seas to our shores. With more than 400 miles of coastline, Rhode Island is more vulnerable than other places and may signal changes to come elsewhere in the world.”